This is a crucial warning. I’ve just had it confirmed that Christmas will be on 25 December this year. You may be thinking “that’s not a surprise”. Yet if that’s true, why are so many skint in January, as if it crept up on them?

Don’t get me wrong, I hate grottos and jingle bells in September as much as the next man –  bah humbug! Yet this isn’t about celebrating early, it’s about urgently preparing your pocket now for the big day to save £100s. Here are my top 10.

1.  Try some spending DemoHoHotivation.  Small spending sacrifices can make a big difference.  There are three magic numbers right now: 92, 65, and 13. The first is the number of days till Christmas, the last the number of weeks – and the middle one, well let me show you. 

If you buy a can of Coke and a packet of crisps costing £2.50 every working day, and you stopped now and saved the cash, you’d have £162.50 (£2.50 x 65). The same works with a daily coffee, cigarettes, or catching the bus when you can walk. 

I’m not saying you should give it up, but that you can make an active choice. Would you prefer the cash at Christmas or the daily treat?  For a full tool that’ll add up all the savings, try www.demohohotivator.com 

2. Bag 5% off ALL Christmas shopping. Capital One’s Aspire World credit card pays a big 5% cashback (up to a maximum of £100) on ALL spending in the first 99 days (up to 1.25% after). Therefore apply now to use it for all your normal spending and Christmas shopping to get serious cashback on your spend – though that’s not paid until January. Do remember to set up a monthly direct debit to fully repay the balance to avoid the 19.9% rep APR.

If you have a poor credit score, you can still get 3% cashback with the Aqua Reward card (www.aquacard.co.uk/credit-cards/reward-card), up to a maximum of £100 a year. It’s designed as a credit rebuild card – where you use it each month to boost your credit score – and it even accepts some with older CCJs or defaults. Though you must ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS  fully repay or it’s a huge 34.9% representative APR.

3.  Put money aside each month from now. A typical family’s Christmas spending is £600, which is too much for December’s income alone. Work out your likely spend and put a quarter aside in September, October and November to spread the cost.

If that’s too much, cut your cloth accordingly. Too many set themselves up for debt or disappointment by asking themselves: “What do we need for the perfect Christmas/Eid/Chanucah/Diwali?” Instead, to avoid ruining the New Year, work out your budget and ask: “What’s the best time we can have with this amount of cash?”

4. Don’t use Tesco vouchers for festive food

A £10 voucher is worth just £10 in-store, yet you can triple its value (so £10 becomes £30) on gift items such as jewellery or breakdown cover. Plus, I suspect in November it’ll relaunch its in-store ‘double-up’ scheme, letting you get 2x value on selected items, possibly including  frozen food.  Plus you can boost this by reclaiming lost old points. Some people find £100s worth – for full info on how, see www.moneysavingexpert.com/tescoreclaim

5.  Got it & don’t need it? Flog it now for fast Xmas cash. Many old items can be worth serious cash.  As a simple rule, if you haven’t used it since last Christmas, consider flogging it to build up extra cash, whether that’s on eBay or at car boot sales. 

With old mobiles, don’t just send it to the first company you see advertised on the telly – there can be price differences of £100s depending on the handset, so compare, or use my www.mobilevaluer.com tool to do it for you.

6. Comp for Crimbo prezzies. If you’ve nowt to sell, try comping for a bit of fun – sourcing and entering 100s of the right competitions using web gadgets. From cars to 5-star USA holidays, MoneySavers have won it all. There are no guarantees, but why not try it?  A number of websites are dedicated to showing you how.

It’s about putting in the hours, systematically entering hundreds of competitions, rather than doing the odd contest. This way, you’re statistically more likely to win big. Depending on your work ethic and luck, you could furnish your house, travel the world and boost your bank balance.

7. Time to ban Christmas presents? Christmas isn’t a retail festival. Yet gift inflation sees people give to an ever-widening range of extended family and colleagues. The joy of giving can be selfish if it obliges someone to buy you back. Plus often gifts are given out of a tick-boxing “must get someone something” attitude that just clogs up landfill.  

So maybe it’s time to ban gift giving to the ever increasing list of extended family, colleagues and friends.  Read my full manifesto on it at www.moneysavingexpert.com/banchristmas . For a less militant stance, you could agree a No Unnecessary Presents Pact with friends, to donate to charity or a Secret Santa.             

8. Buying for a friend? Note it down. If you’re buying a present, remember only the person who bought goods has statutory rights to take it back and get a refund if it’s faulty.  So if you give a gift, technically the recipient can’t return it. So use a gift receipt, or if it’s not available, note down that it’s a gift (preferably on the slip the retailer keeps) to transfer the rights.

9.  Get a Christmas cupboard. If you’re buying gifts, put them aside in a  ‘Christmas cupboard’. Then when discount bargains or vouchers appear, or shops do their one-off sales as Debenhams, John Lewis and Next have just done, you can pounce, grab the bargain, wrap it and pop it away.

10. Don’t borrow for Christmas, but if you do, ensure it’s 0%. Borrowing for Christmas is a bad idea, budget and self-restraint are far better.  Yet no matter what I say, some’ll borrow. If so, the longest 0% spending credit card for new cardholders is Tesco’s 16 month 0%. Yet, as with any credit card, you need to plan the repayments. Ideally, you should plan to clear it before next Christmas, but  definitely before the 0% ends, as it jumps to 16.9% representative APR. For full help, see www.moneysavingexpert.com/0%cards

Don’t pay to call 0800 numbers from mobiles
Freephones aren’t, er, free from mobiles (yet), they cost up to a nasty 40p/min. Yet 0800buster.co.uk lets you ring them via a local number, so they’re part of your inclusive minutes. Full how-to at www.moneysavingexpert.com/0800buster

Instant 30%-off Odeon voucher
To get a voucher for 30% off Odeon tickets, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/cinema. It’s valid on any film Sun-Thu until Thu 18 Oct 2012.